America’s Declaration of Independence, the proclamation written by Thomas Jefferson and made by the second American Continental Congress on 4th July 1776 declared the freedom and independence of the 13 colonies from Great Britain.
Since June 24, the Liberty County Vindicator of Liberty County, Texas, a small community newspaper, has been sharing daily excerpts from the declaration in the run up to the 4th July, Independence Day, on Facebook. The first nine such posts of the project went up without incident.
Casey Stinnett, editor of the Vindicator has revealed that part 10 did not go so smoothly. It appears Facebook’s algorithms have ruled that parts of the US Declaration of Independence are hate speech and removed excerpts of them posted to the platform. This is an automated action and parts of the text apparently violated the site’s policies against hate speech.
Mr. Stinnett said part 10 did not appear. “Instead, The Vindicator received a notice from Facebook saying that the post ‘goes against our standards on hate speech.'”
The specific post, part 10, contained paragraphs 27 to 31 of the Declaration of Independence, this section of the document outlines the grievances against Great Britain. The put-upon colonists detail all the irreconcilable differences they have with King George III.
Stinnett says that he cannot be sure which exact grievance ran foul of Facebook’s policy, but he assumes that it’s paragraph 31, which excoriates the King for inciting “domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages.”
Stinnett added, “Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ‘Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development’ that would have been better.
“Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.”
Mr. Stinnett sent a “feedback message” to Facebook with the hopes of reaching a human being who could then exempt the Declaration of Independence from its hate speech restrictions.
Whilst unhappy about the decision, he reminds readers “that Facebook is a business corporation, not the government, and as such it is allowed to restrict use of its services as long as those restrictions do not violate any laws. Plus, The Vindicator is using Facebook for free, so the newspaper has little grounds for complaint other than the silliness of it.”
The newspaper later confirmed that Facebook had had a change of heart and apologised.
“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our community standards,” the company told the Vindicator.
“We want to apologise and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”